Managing Stress & Anxiety
Every single parent will find parenthood stressful at times, no matter how much they also love the role of being a parent. And from the moment you begin thinking about having a baby until... let's just say being a parent can also make you feel quite anxious at times!
Here we will discuss some common anxieties and causes of stress. Sadly there is no magic cure, but we will discuss things that may help to alleviate some stress and reduce anxieties, and what to do if the stress feels unmanageable.
If you and your partner have decided to try for a baby, it can feel like there is a sudden pressure each month. We know so much about the optimal conditions for conceiving that it can make us obsess over the finer details.
Focusing on ovulation can be important if you are struggling to conceive (more tips to be posted on this topic soon), but otherwise it can take the fun out of the process!
The best advice we can probably give you is to simply have sex often! Latest research suggests that having sex every other day should allow mens' bodies time to refresh - and fresh sperm has higher motility. But as the purpose of this page is about reducing stress, sex every other day is suggested because that way you stop watching the calendar and obsessing over ovulation. You are having sex often enough throughout your cycle that your timings will at one point coincide with ovulation each month, and you can simply enjoy practising making babies!
And if you need more support with fertility further down the line, be honest with your partner about your feelings as communication will be key when discussing your options. It sounds simple but you are not alone in that situation as you have each other and who better to understand the situation than the person going through it with you?
It is very natural to feel anxious about the birth. You want to know that your baby will arrive safely into this world, and your health is important too. You may have specific concerns related to your health.
Read our page on making a birth plan. If you are informed, you can make clear choices and this can lead to an empowered birth.
Consider attending ante-natal classes so that you have an opportunity to learn and ask questions. The NHS are usually able to offer free classes during weekdays, or you can attend paid NCT classes which are usually on in the evenings. These classes also allow you to meet other mums due at the same time as you, and they can be a fantastic support in those early months.
Hynobirthing courses are a fantastic way of feeling more positive and empowered. Check out our page.
One of the biggest adjustments parents have to make is to their sleep schedule - because newborns rarely follow one! If they do, it may be the total opposite to yours; some babies sleeps all day and eat all night!
Understanding the needs of your newborn and having realistic expectations can massively help with this period. We promise it does not last forever! And you are doing NOTHING wrong if your baby doesn't sleep through the night. It is totally normal for a baby to wake regularly and in fact is a protective measure against SIDS. Plus their tummies are so tiny that they have to feed little and often. Yes, you will know at least one parent whose baby magically sleeps through the night and they are the envy of everyone but if it's not your baby sleeping through, don't worry - your baby is totally normal and they will get there when they are ready.
Another worry new parents have is about bad habits. There are so many articles on the topic and some outdated or unrealistic 'expert' opinions still circulate. Some say you absolutely must not rock or nurse your baby to sleep because babies need to learn to self-soothe.
You cannot TEACH a baby to go to sleep. Going against your instincts causes more stress. Mothers are programmed to respond to their baby's cry and ignoring it will cause you stress. Be there for your baby when they need you with no feelings of guilt. If they need nursing to sleep, go for it. If they need rocking, go for it. Will they only sleep in the car with a certain song on? Go for it, and learn to love the song on repeat! They are not ready to be independent yet and by responding to their needs you are building secure attachments that will last a lifetime.
Just follow your instincts.
Feeding your Baby
There are many scenarios parents find themselves in when feeding their newborn, including but by no means limited to:
1) They want to breastfeed and manage it. It can be hard and full-on, sometimes painful and pretty tiring. They worry about feeding in public and have had comments asking them 'why don't you just given them a bottle if they are hungry?' etc.
2) They want to breastfeed but for some reason are unsuccessful. Cue feelings of guilt, regret, and frustration.
3) They don't want to breastfeed and begin bottle feeding. Surrounded by 'breast is best' info whilst you're just happy your child is fed.
If you want more information on breastfeeding or bottle feeding, check out our pages. But for the purpose of this page, we are here to simply say: we have got your back. However, you are feeding your baby, you need support. We hope to provide that for you.
Support is the main way to reduce anxiety about how you are feeding your baby so engage with your midwife/ health visitor/ local support groups/ the online community..
Unless you are seeking support, there is no reason to debate with anyone how you choose to (or indeed have to) feed your child. Feeling like you have to defend yourself will only lead to further stress and anxiety. You and your partner know your child and your circumstances better than anyone else. You will have made a decision based on what was best for you all and no one else needs to have a say.
Managing Your House
Parenting is a full time job. That has to be said out loud and acknowledged because otherwise, there can be an imbalance in a couple if it is seen that staying at home is the easier option instead of going out to work.
Whilst one of you might stay at home, this does not mean you are having a day off lounging about whilst your kid entertains themselves allowing you to chill out in front of the TV. And it's highly unlikely, especially in those early days, that you will be able to clean your bathrooms and look after your baby.
Accept this now and discuss this with your partner so that you both know there is no expectation to keep a perfect show home whilst looking after a baby/child. This will reduce the stress for whoever is at home with the baby as they won't have to worry about any judgement if the partner comes home from work to a pile of washing up, laundry ready to sort, and unpeeled vegetables.
You have fed, nurtured and responded to your baby's needs all day.
That's not to say that you shouldn't be considerate of the person going out to work. They have to work after potentially disrupted sleep, and may not stop when they come in either as they want to spend time with their kids too having missed them, but they may also have to help with chores etc. This is full on too.
You are a partnership. Have respect for both roles and situations and discuss what you both need.
Roles may have to change in your household once you are pregnant and once you have children. You may be physically unable to complete some jobs, and then you may be busy parenting. Be flexible with who does what - some days one of you may have to pick up the slack for the other. This should continue to be the case regardless of the age of your children!
Have the non-negotiables that must be done before bed e.g. bottle prep/washing the breast pump etc, and both of you can take responsibility for ensuring that job is done. Don't forget to communicate. Discuss any issues calmly before they become big rows.
Going Back to Work
Going back to work can be stressful for a number of reasons:
- worrying about your job role after maternity leave
- worrying about the care of your child in your absence
- worrying about workload and work/life balance.... and many other factors.
It is natural to worry about leaving your child. If you are using a daycare facility, visit with your partner and ensure you feel comfortable with the surroundings. Ask questions about anything that is important to you or that you have concerns about e.g. how will they get your child to nap; how do they feel about baby-led weaning. This will help you to decide if the environment is right for your child and whether it will fit with how you choose to parent.
If you have been breastfeeding and are returning to work, check out this guide which covers your options to continue breastfeeding and expressing.
In terms of work-life balance, this can be a concern even without children. Discuss concerns with your employer as soon as possible to alleviate further stress. Your employer cannot help if they don't know there is an issue.
When to Seek Support
There is zero shame in admitting that parenthood is hard. In fact, we believe it should actually be said more often, not to put off prospective parents, but to prepare them and reassure all parents they are not alone in their struggles and worries.
If you feel your stress or anxiety is unmanageable, then do seek support, either from your support network, or from a professional.
If your anxiety:
comes up unexpectedly, for seemingly no reason
seems unrealistic, such as fear of a situation that likely will never happen
lasts for a long time, even when the situation or problem has been resolved
feels impossible to control or manage
makes you avoid situations or things that you believe to trigger your anxiety
...you may wish to seek support from a professional, like Catherine Beach.